Online video specialist and Comcast subsidiary thePlatform, which is providing the back-end technology for Comcast's On Demand Online trial, says it has now developed a set of features for its "media publishing system," or mps, that will allow programmers to provide so-called "TV Everywhere" capabilities on their own Websites.
The On Demand Online trial, which Comcast is pursuing with various basic and premium cable networks, is based on using authentication technology to make sure that viewers can only see TV programs online that they are already paying for through their cable-TV subscriptions. thePlatform says its new "TV Everywhere" system will manage that process for programmers and allow them to validate and authorize the playback of individual shows.
The Seattle-based company has introduced an "Authentication Adapter" service for programmers' Websites that acts as a proxy to communicate with the various back-end billing systems used by cable operators and other pay-TV providers and authenticate individual subscribers for particular content. thePlatform says the adapter will manage the complex cross-referencing required for the authentication process.
thePlatform will then provide a mechanism to authorize playback of shows based on subscription packages, by mapping individual videos to each operator's channels and connecting the consumer to a list of approved channel IDs. Besides aligning available videos based on a consumer's individual subscription package, the system will also ensure that media rights such as airdates, geographic restrictions and other business policies are honored.
While much of the "TV Everywhere" discussion has been about making sure subscribers only get to see online what they're already paying for on their TV, programmers and operators are also interested in using the technology to let consumers buy more, either by upgrading their subscription or selling online shows on a pay-per-view basis.
So thePlatform's new system will also support "adaptable content discovery and monetization", which lets programmers personalize their video Websites for consumers based on business arrangements with pay-TV operators. For example, a consumer who searches for content they don't yet subscribe to could be offered full search results with the option to upgrade to the required package, instead of just restricting results to available video.
"We're not only giving them authorization to understand what's available," says thePlatform CEO Ian Blaine. "We're also saying, ‘You don't have HBO today, but you could, and here's how to get it.'"
In addition to the "TV Everywhere" enhancements, thePlatform is expected to announce that some 20 individual networks have become customers of its mps system. They include Fox Sports Networks, which will use thePlatform to provide both live and on-demand coverage of sporting events, and Comcast Entertainment Group properties E!, Style Network and G4. thePlatform is also supplying authentication technology to Canadian cable operator Rogers Communications, which is launching its own "TV Everywhere"-like service on its Website.
"There's going to be so much more content coming online for subscribers," says Blaine. "For guys like me, it's exciting. As a technology company, we've been waiting for the dam to break, and I think it will be great for consumers to have that much more access."